Irakli Garibashvili is Co-Founder and a Board Member of the Georgian Library Association. In the past decade, he’s worked on ICT development, created a training center for librarians, and advocated extensively to the Georgian government for libraries and library services.
BA: What are some of the key challenges you’ve faced in your work?
IG: We started from scratch with no connections to anyone. Near about 2003-2005, we found good contacts in the Ministries of Culture and Education, and also in local mayors’ offices. Then, something changed. Someone at a high level must have decided that libraries were no longer important, and people stopped communicating with us. Local governments started shutting down libraries around the country, and now the number of libraries in Georgia has plummeted. So we needed to start over again.
We realized that we needed to take a quieter approach, but we are actually able to offer more activities than we did before. With the help of EIFL, we offer trainings, create major publicity campaigns, and promote libraries to government and businesses. Slowly, we have built up new contacts, including the speaker of the Georgian parliament.
BA: Can you tell us more about the status of libraries in Georgia?
IG: In the Soviet era, no library associations existed. We founded the Georgia Library Association in 2000, and it has grown slowly since then.
BA: What projects are you most excited about?
IG: Since 2012, the Service Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice has been working to transform existing public libraries into more modern spaces so they can serve as free public access points where people in communities can gather. The project will help make more services available to rural populations and aims to construct Community Centers in areas that don’t already have regional library branches. Eight are already operating, providing communities with a space to access public and private services as well as free use of the internet. In the future, the Community Centers will offer more content and activities, like educational activities, an electronic library, and computer literacy trainings. The Georgia Library Association will collaborate with the Service Development Agency to prepare five existing public libraries so they can serve a similar purpose to the Community Centers. A key element to this project is using the public libraries to introduce e-government, a significant goal that is included in Georgia’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan.